One set of rules and language for ‘us’ and another for ‘them’
APART from exposing a breathtaking abuse of taxpayers’ money disguised as political “entitlements”, former Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop’s profligacy has not only opened a can of expensive worms on other MPs’ spending but also revealed the way language is deployed to explain, justify, defend or attack.
Depending on whether you’re a political peer or a certain type of constituent, the rhetoric used is very different.
Analysing the way officials communicate with voters discloses an enormous gap between “us” and “them” – “us” being politicians, and “them” being the disadvantaged, underclass, unemployed, or those of perceived questionable morals or who commit a crime or misdemeanour.
Trying to persuade voters we needed to tighten our belts, accept some cuts in order to “repair the Budget”, and fix the “debt and deficit disaster” of the Labor government, last year Treasurer Joe Hockey used every linguistic trick in his arsenal to prepare us for the tough Budget we were told we had to have. Having delivered one that left most of us reeling, a Budget that, according to various economic modelling and fiscal experts negatively impacted the lower echelons of society the most, Hockey was then forced to defend his measures.
He used expressions such as “lifters not leaners”, and explained the Government was issuing a “hand up, not a handout” and so on.
He even went so far as to infamously suggest “poor people don’t drive cars”. Last time I looked, they certainly didn’t hire choppers, private aircraft, limousines or fly their children business class either.